The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty


There are two kinds of USMNT supporters in this world – those who are completely floored by AC Milan signing Oguchi Onyewu on a free, and lying liars who lie and lie and lie. It goes without saying that I wish our Gooch nothing but the best out there, but how baffling of a signing is this?

First off, there is the indication from that Guardian article that this move was partially inspired by the desire of the AC Milan brain trust to appease those supporters who are a trifle miffed about the sale of Kaka to Real Madrid. Where does one even begin with this? Let me put it this way – let’s say I took the deed to your Beverly Hills mansion, and in return gave you the title to a servicable one-bedroom apartment in Anywhere, USA. How would you feel about that particular transaction? Normally, I have less than zero time for the antics of Italian Ultras, but I have to admit that in this scenario, I have a degree of sympathy for them.

In a vacuum, this isn’t the worst signing in the world. The Guardian article is spot-on in its assessment that central defense had been an issue for the Rossoneri with Paolo Maldini’s retirement (though they possibly exaggerate the age-based decline of Alessandro Nesta and Kakha Kaladze, who are 33 and 31 respectively). Gooch is 27 with unquestioned physical attributes (in other words, he’s built like a fucking tank). However, he is prone to mental lapses at the worst times – especially with missed interceptions or poor defensive reads and positioning.

With that in mind, here’s my question. Why Onyewu when they already had the same guy in Phillipe Senderos?

Seriously, part of me wonders if Americans are the new affordable-vanity purchase in light of a) the strong performance in the Confederations Cup and b) the Madridification of the overall transfer market. There is a precedent for this, such as in 2002 where all it took to engineer a transfer to at least a mid-major European club was a Senegalese passport. Onyewu is with Milan, Clint Dempsey is heavily rumored to leave Fulham for a bigger club, Everton is signing some random guy from the 4th tier of the US minor leagues, and Landon Donovan is rumored to be considering giving Europe another go (hint: you probably want to try somewhere other than Germany, bro). The optimist in me sees this as a critical step in our national team’s continued development, while the pessimist in me sees a future where these clubs look back at this Yankee gold rush like those my age look back on Hypercolor t-shirts and Z. Cavaracci pants (or, even worse, Zubaz). As I recall, most of the Senegalese contingent flamed out once they got to the highest levels…though there is the argument that we’re a better footballing nation overall, so thus our guys might have a better shot at sticking around in the big leagues.

If anything, we’ll find out once and for all exactly what Gooch’s level is. If he can even feature intermittently for Milan, that is eminently more useful for his development than playing every game for Standard Liege. I have long considered Jay DeMerit to be a better overall defender, but he may end up having to force a move to the Premiership in order to keep up with Onyewu. The English first division is not a bad league – it certainly kicks the shit out of MLS and is probably better top-to-bottom than the Scottish Premier – but it’s still second-tier at the end of the day. On the other hand, if Gooch goes to Italy and ends up welded to the bench, then this doesn’t do anyone a damn bit of good.

A quick sidebar, if I may. I was discussing this on the Arseblog forums today, and one guy posited the idea that shirt sales may have something to do with this. It’s interesting to me, but even here in the States, it probably won’t be that much of a revenue stream. A club’s market in their own country will be fairly centralized, with the big clubs monopolizing the lion’s share of merchandise sales (take a walk in downtown Wigan or Hull sometime and see how many Manchester United shirts are worn as opposed to the local club’s). But, because the audience in the US is so fractured between the myriad European leagues (not to mention the Latin American contingent), there are a relative few American supporters who are big fans of both Oguchi Onyewu AND AC Milan. It’s not the same situation that I imagine Manchester United are enjoying with Ji-Sung Park, or that Celtic had with Shunsuke Nakamura.  

Anyway, back on topic, I imagine that Milan’s financial situation had something to do with this as well. We’re living in a world where Peter Crouch is seriously rumored to be moving to Sunderland for something like 16.5 million euros…if that’s what a goal-shy forward costs these days (I won’t even get into the Glen Johnson transfer, because I’m at work and it wouldn’t be polite to cackle at the top of my lungs), can you imagine what the going rate is for a proper center-half at the current prices?

Oh, the other amusing thing about this was that Real Madrid were rumored to be interested in signing Gooch before this all went down. On one hand, OF COURSE they were…I wouldn’t be shocked to see them overpay to poach some poor other club’s kitman, or a physio to work on the reserve team’s second-string. On the other hand, they were rumored to be signing a **defender**, which is just ridiculous when you think about it.

Time will tell with this transfer, and as I mentioned, I don’t think this is the last Yank to change addresses in this transfer window. It may even get weirder from here – stay tuned.

July 7, 2009 - Posted by | Other Soccer

1 Comment »

  1. Yeah, I was floored. (I missed the news earlier in the day, too.)

    If he plays, this is a great move for everyone. Italian soccer, though, has killed careers before, let’s just hope it isn’t him…

    Comment by TK | July 8, 2009 | Reply

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